The queen of good manners, Emily Post, died in 1960, but great-great grandson Daniel Post Senning ’99—one of the editors of the 19th edition of Emily Post’s Etiquette—is helping to carry forward the family business.
And it’s not all about forks, knives and seating arrangements.
In the world of etiquette, Senning says, the only constant is that there’s always something new to grapple with. The advent of the home telephone brought with it a fear of the end of family life. The explosion of social media raised questions about navigating online spaces. A globalized world has brought with it cultural quandaries in international business meetings.
So what’s next?
For one thing, big shifts are coming with increased questions about gender and gender identity, Senning says. Traditional gender courtesies will need to be adjusted.
The smartphone is also challenging social norms. “People are going to take more and more seriously how we show respect to each other and are able to shut off from the digital world, from the information that’s flowing around us all the time, and connect with each other as people,” he says.
Senning also predicts that the legalization of cannabis in California and other states will affect how we entertain at home. Do you offer an after-dinner joint? How do you navigate a guest who is high? Or a relative who was raised to believe that cannabis was criminal and immoral?
But for Senning, no matter how much things change, the organizing principles of etiquette always stay the same: respect and flexibility.
“Change is something we’ve survived before as a society, as individuals, as cultures all over, and things will continue to change. Changing with them, frankly, is something that we’ve done before.”